3 Parenting Questions for Ken Fong
This post is part of a series celebrating the release of the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family. We’re interviewing parents who serve, think, and write about faith, family, and ministry.
I’m so pleased to share this week’s three-question interview with Ken Fong. Ken has long been connected with Fuller, and now serves as the executive director of our Asian American Initiative. Ken has been the senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles for nearly 20 years. A noted conference speaker and church leader, he is a pioneer in multi-Asian and multiethnic church ministry. Ken and his wife have one daughter, and we’ll kick off our interview with a question about conversations with her.
You’ve been committed to having honest dialogue about homosexuality. How do you try to have honest conversations with your teenage daughter about same-sex issues?
Same-sex issues come up quite naturally with our teenaged daughter for a number of reasons. Until this season, she was a big fan of GLEE on television, which features numerous LGBTQ teens in the main cast. But other popular shows like American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance have naturally opened the door for us to discuss topics related to homosexuality and our faith in Christ due to the frequency of gay contestants, choreographers, or judges. But without a doubt, the number one catalytic agent for talking with her about homosexuality has been a personal and pastoral journey to find a way home for LGBTQ Christians. While it’s only been after a long, arduous journey that I’ve come to believe that LGBTQ people are just as precious and worthy as any straight person and I are to the Lord, my daughter seems to come by this outlook naturally or maybe generationally. This doesn’t mean she thinks that LGBTQ Christians should be free to do whatever they choose; rather, we both think that all Christians—gay or straight—have chosen to wrestle with what it looks like to live God-glorifying lives.
The biggest stimulus to these conversations has been when some of her friends at church have left because their parents aren’t comfortable with what I’m trying to figure out. Or when she overhears me talking about how I’m getting slammed because of taking the lead on this tough issue. That’s when she’ll ask, “Dad, I get that not every Christian agrees with you; but why does that make it okay for them to call you names and to say bad things about our church?” For our family, on this tough issue, the only way this would be more real would be if someone in our family circle was gay. I especially use these conversations to share with her how I’m feeling and how I’m dealing with the challenges. But I also make a point of sharing with her some of the heart-warming stories that are emerging all around me these days because of God’s calling me to pursue this uncharted path.
Your wife works full-time outside of the home. How do the two of you share parenting and home responsibilities?
We were married in 1981 and we didn’t become parents (after adopting a 6-day old little girl) until 1999. So for the first 18 years of our marriage, we both worked full-time and my wife was the default for the majority of grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning the kitchen. After we became parents, we stayed in that pattern for another 9 years. I typically worked closer to home and therefore was the natural one to pick up our child from after school care. But even though my wife commuted through rush hour traffic—first from Beverly Hills, then from the heart of downtown LA—I didn’t cook dinner and I didn’t clean up the kitchen.
But all of that radically changed about five years ago. I just felt so convicted that I was sinning against her. My repentance has taken the form of taking on cleaning the kitchen daily and cooking or providing dinner at least two days each week. Now that we’re giving our daughter an allowance, she’s required to clean up the kitchen on the weekends. My simple goal these past several years is for my wife to wake up and walk into a spotless kitchen most mornings so that she can kick off her workday with a sense of serenity, order, and cleanliness.
As a senior pastor, what do you wish folks knew about senior pastors’ families that they don’t yet know?
As a senior pastor who’s married to a highly respected professional in the banking industry, it’s been really important for the sanctity of our marriage and our respective sanity to know that our church’s members don’t expect her to be everywhere that I have to be because of my job. So she no longer is obligated to attend every wedding or funeral I perform. And I no longer feel obligated to stay for every wedding reception, because I’m trying to reduce the amount of time I spend away from my family.
Even before we were married, my wife has had to come to church without me and then not sit next to me in worship the past 30+ years. Which means she’s also functioned on Sunday mornings like a single parent. I don’t think most people realize that, by marrying me, my wife has essentially given up ever having a pastor in her life. And that’s true for every other spouse of one of the pastors on my staff. When my wife is hurting, I can reach out to her, but she receives that—understandably—as coming from her husband. So when she had Stage 1 ovarian cancer two years ago, I walked through that dark valley with her, but it frankly felt odd to have any of the other pastors extend care to her. Even when a few visited her in the hospital, they were visiting the spouse of their boss. Most people don’t understand that dynamic of pastors’ families.
For more ideas from real families like yours, get the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family.